Joya: AiR / Nuala Gorman / Ireland


“At 15.55 on Saturday September 1st I stepped off the Alsa bus into 34 degrees sunshine. Vélez-Rubio was eerily quiet as the inhabitants enjoyed their daily siesta. At 15.56 the sound of a car broke the silence and I heard my name being called. I turned around and saw Simon.

20 or 30 minutes further travel through the countryside brought us to Joya: AiR. From the top of the hill, it looked like a mirage glistening in the sunlight. Next morning I woke up asking myself what am I doing here? I can’t ever recall having two weeks of uninterrupted time to create.

My current investigations are concerned with cultural memory, emigration and family roots. This residency with Joya: AiR gave me the opportunity to experience how an emigrant might feel having left their familiar surroundings, and what difficulties they might encounter when they first arrive in a different country.

During my stay in Joya: AiR I met 15 people from different parts of the world. Almost everyone knew where Ireland is, but not one person knew where my home County of Westmeath is. For me this put things in perspective.
Over the two weeks, language was a common, recurrent topic among the residents. Though we all communicated through English, we didn’t always understand each other, resulting in a lot of blank looks, and further explanations. I have never been more aware of the language differences between British English, Irish English, and Canadian English, all so similar but very different.

As the first week progressed, I became deeply immersed in developing my technique of working with Cyanotype Printmaking. The abundance of sunshine facilitated working in this media. By the end of the second week I wished I had more time.

I was surprised by how easily I had settled into life off-grid, adapting to 30 + degrees temperatures, a different diet, Spanish time for dinner at 21.00, integrating with different nationalities, adjusting to water shortage, living without access to technology, very little phone coverage, and no access to transport or shops. Life became minimalistic and uncomplicated. I responded to the environment and allowed nature to enter my work. I learned to live in harmony with the insects and respect the trojan work of the ants. During my daily walks past the almond trees and through pine forests I found a resonance with the Aleppo pine, which is non-native to the area. It too is an emigrant, which took root in Andalucía. For some it was welcome and for others it is not. The bark shavings, which fall away from the Aleppo pine trees, gradually found a place in my work as a motif for the emigrant.

At 9.30am, Saturday September the 15th I stepped out of the pouring rain onto the AlSA bus, feeling creatively reinvigorated and replenished.

Many thanks Donna and Simon for all your kindness”.

Nuala Gorman

Simon Beckmann